CHAPTER VII. Of Humility
7 Feb. 8 June. 8 Oct.
The tenth degree of humility is, that he be not easily moved and prompt to laughter; because it is written: “The fool lifteth up his voice in laughter.”
Saint Gregory says that Saint Benedict was “brought up at Rome in the study of humanity.” He further recounts that Saint Benedict, “with a resolute mind only to serve God, sought for some place, where he might attain to the desire of his holy purpose: and in this sort he departed, instructed with learned ignorance, and furnished with unlearned wisdom.” Saint Benedict quit Rome, but he he did not leave behind him the Roman virtues, those traits of character that Roman gentlemen were expected to embody and to pass on to their sons. In Saint Benedict, we see a christening of the Roman virtues. We see the Roman virtues irrigated by divine grace and related to the theological virtues. Among the Roman virtues is gravitas. What is gravitas? Gravitas gives a man a sense of the seriousness of life. It makes him responsible and earnest. Gravitas is not opposed to that other Roman virtue: laetitia. Alongside of taking life seriously, the Romans valued living joyfully.
In the tenth degree of humility, Saint Benedict warns his sons against being superficial, frivolous, and giddy. We have all, I think, met chaps who make a joke of everything. Their laughter is loud and boisterous. It may also be irreverent, mocking, and sarcastic. Certain men turn everything into a farce. In doing this, they seek the attention and approval of their fellows, but such unseasonable and distasteful joking is tiresome.
Saint Benedict is not opposed to good cheer. He would have his sons obey with alacrity and good cheer. He makes joy in the Holy Ghost a characteristic of the Lenten observance, which observance is a paradigm of monastic observance at all times.The cloister is the abode of joy, but it is the joy that is a fruit of the Holy Ghost. Heed then the word of the Apostle:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)